If you have an elderly friend or relative that relies heavily on the care of others for their health and wellbeing, it can be worrying if you start to see signs of negligence. It is particularly painful for relatives as we place the carer in a position of trust with our loved ones, a position of trust we hope the carer will maintain. However it doesn’t always work in that way and there are nurses and caregivers that will ignore or even show a blatant disregard for the needs of the elderly and infirm.
Although there is nothing healthy about being immediately suspicious of all caregivers – as it is a token minority that give all caregivers a bad name – there is nothing wrong with familiarising yourself with signs of medical negligence and learning how you can report it to the relevant authorities as soon as possible.
What is Clinical or Medical Negligence?
Clinical or Medical Negligence is where a patient takes their medical attendants to civil court for compensation. This is normally as a result of the doctor or carer acting in a manner that contradicts their duty of care. This can be due to negligence in the management of such care and the end result which may have also caused the patient to suffer because of their negligence.
The claimant’s loss is assessed in terms of ‘quantum’ meaning loss of future earnings, reduced quality of life and the affect it has had on the mental and emotional feelings of the patient. The compensation offered is normally in a monetary form.
How to look out for it
It can be hard to easily identify Medical Negligence as it comes in a variety of forms. Depending on your relative’s level of incapacity there could be unexplainable bruises on their person, torn or soiled clothing or a change in complexion to name a few.
Signs of medical negligence are not simply physical as care-givers can also inflict emotional abuse on patients. Check if your relative responds well to their carer. Do they appear happy and at ease? Do they seem to shrink into themselves or flinch when someone (you or the care-giver) moves too fast? These are little things you have to look for.
How to Report Medical Negligence in a Care Home
Do not go running straight to the police if you suspect negligence as there may have been a simple misunderstanding. First raise your initial concerns with the care home manager who may be able to provide an adequate explanation. However if the manager appears suspicious or you are not happy with the manager’s response, you can make a formal, written complaint to the care home or to the CEO of the care home if it is part of a larger branch.
Illuminate your concerns in a clear and concise manner and make sure to keep records of all of your subsequent communications with the manager and any members of staff you may suspect of being responsible for the treatment. In extreme cases you can escalate the case further by sending it to the Care Quality Commission or the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
It can be hard to disassociate yourself with particular incidents, especially if the elderly relative is close to you, but it is important to try and keep a level head when dealing with medical negligence. Unfortunately if you get over-emotional about a potential case, your testimony may be discredited as an overly-worried relative, so try to keep a handle on your emotions at all times and stick to stating the facts. If you have enough evidence collected and the authorities are doing their jobs properly, justice will be served if you persist!
Mike James of UK based solicitors www.georgeide.co.uk discusses the most common tell-tale signs of medical negligence, and what you can do when you think you have spotted foul play.